Music Feature

Film Review: Lola Versus

by Piers Marchant
A young actress succumbs to the Hollywood machine.
lolaversus_med

Dir. Daryl Wein
Score: 4.6

Although the title of Greta Gerwig's new rom-com style flick begs to be ambiguous, I suspect the real villain Gerwig is up against is the agency of Hollywood. Known for her indie-film cred, the talented Gerwig -- one of the pioneers of the so-dubbed mumblecore movement in the early aughts -- finds her career at a crossroads: Does she continue to make quirky, realistic indie fare, such as Noah Baumbach's Greenberg? Or does she get a full-body makeover and try to make the jump into the rarefied air of Approachable Female Hollywood Star?

Depressingly enough, this straight-as-an-arrow lukewarm comedy would seem to indicate her intentions. Yes, we're not quite at the level of Elizabeth Banks or (shudder) Kate Hudson here -- the film has at least a few more rough edges than, say, What Happens in Vegas -- but its still a far cry from the actress' beguiling best early work (Nights & Weekends, Baghead), and there are indicators that she's positioning herself for a full-on jump into the big time, or were all those apparent hours spent on a elliptical machine just a coincidence?

She plays the titular character, a woman thrown out of sorts when her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman), breaks off their engagement right before the big day. There to help her pick up the pieces are best friends Alice (Zoe Lister Jones, who co-wrote the script, and tries to give herself the funniest lines) and Henry (Hamish Linklater). Over the course of the next few months, Lola tries to fill the growing chaos of her life with a series of perplexing decisions and sleeping with a few other unlikely boys, including a prison architect (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) so taken with the music of Ani Di Franco, he breathlessly sings her lyrics while in sexual congress. So, the usual obstacles befall our heroine, including the return of her former fiancé, and the complicated connection she has to Henry, who might have had a thing for her himself all these years.

Fetching as Gerwig is, she's not at a level where she can carry a film that's this sodden. Still, it does better when it focuses on its heroine's romantic struggles than its attempts at contemporary and hip, saddled as it is with unfortunately dated tech references (Facebook! Match.com! Yelp!) and a tendency towards bumpersticker dialogue ("I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" Lola wails). Speaking as to the wispy nature of this enterprise, we're also asked to believe in a main protagonist who supposedly is trying to defend her PhD. dissertation on French literature but throughout the film never so much as cracks a book. Instead, she literally sleeps with her iPhone clutched in her hands and devotes herself entirely to coming to grips with her shattered romantic life, a heroine every bit as self-obsessed -- and predictable -- as the multitude of Hollywood rom-com stalwarts before her.

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